San Callisto catacomb. Period: early Christian. Date: mid 3rd century A.D.
Glencairn Methodist Church
Kriophoros (Κριοφόροσ) - The Ram Bearer
I recently attended a clergy retreat in Rydal Hall, Cumbria. This retreat centre of the Diocese of Carlisle is set in the beautiful English Lake District. There was good food and congenial company. The principal speaker at the retreat was Bishop Richard Clark of Meath and Kildare. Addressing clergy, Bishop Richard spoke about relationships between God, clergy and lay people and he used the above picture of The Ram Bearer to illustrate his points. This picture is a photograph of a 3rd Century painting from the catacombs and is an illustration of the parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15: 1-7).
Jesus claimed to be The Good Shepherd (John 10: 1-18) and, by implication, the shepherd in Luke's parable. When this shepherd discovers that one of his sheep is "lost", he leaves the rest of the flock to tend for themselves and goes off to rescue the Lost Sheep. Generally the Church considers clergy to be "shepherds" and lay people as "sheep". I'm not sure that this metaphor can be pressed too far as many of today's "sheep" are not always so keen to follow their "shepherd", and make up their own minds on many issues <smile>. But bear with the illusion for a while. So dear "sheep", how happy would you be if your rector was not often there for you, but was off looking for "lost sheep"? Would you complain that he is "never there", or are you able to get on with things by yourselves? And you, fellow shepherds, are you happy to leave the ninety and nine and to go out searching for the lost? Bishop Richard challenged us to think about whether we pander too much to the congregation while abandoning the lost souls outside.
And another thing to remember is that even experienced shepherds, like any sheep, can get "lost" from time to time. Then Jesus the Good Shepherd will come looking for us, and carry us home on his shoulders. And he carries us to stop us running off again! But sometimes the congregation and their minister will have to change places! When clergy become tired or fall ill, then the congregation will have to be prepared to carry them for a while. After all, whose shoulders does Jesus have but ours? Our hands, our feet, to advance the Kingdom of God in the world?
Finally the catacomb picture can also conjure up another image. John the Baptist said of Jesus, "Look, the Lamb of God". In pre-Christian Greek mythology, the "Ram Bearer" carried a lamb on his shoulders to the place of sacrifice. We, through our sin, have carried Jesus the Lamb to his sacrifice on the cross, so that our sins may be forgiven.
8 June - 2010
Picture supplied by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Good_shepherd_02b_close.jpg
NOTE - Previous "Monthly Messages" are archived at http://glencairn.connor.anglican.org/previousmessages.htm